If there were one person in the world who might have converted me to Darwinism, it would have been love doctor Helen Fisher, a professor of love, romance, anthropology and evolution at Rutgers university.
Her writings are an enchanting mix of real life romance stories sprinkled with the fictions of evolution. She has a truly brilliant and beautiful mind.
She became a love doctor after she was married at a young age, became disappointed, and then divorced after 6 months. She then made it her life long journey to understand the nature of love and find the formula for romantic love that will last forever. She went on to publish her findings in famous books like Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love
Dr. Barbara Smuts summarizes Dr. Fisher’s work in the pages of Scientific American:
A male baboon named Sherlock sat on a cliff, unable to take his eyes off his favorite female, Cybelle, as she foraged far below. Each time Cybelle approached another adult male, Sherlock froze with tension, only to relax again when she ignored a potential rival. Finally, Cybelle glanced up and met his gaze. Instantly Sherlock flattened his ears and narrowed his eyes in what baboon researchers call the come-hither face. It worked; seconds later Cybelle sat by her guy, grooming him with gusto. After observing many similar scenarios, I realized that baboons, like humans, develop intense attractions to particular members of the opposite sex. Baboon heterosexual partnerships bear an intriguing resemblance to ours, but they also differ in important ways. For instance, baboons can simultaneously be “in love” with more than one individual, a capacity that, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, most humans lack. ADVERTISEMENT (article continues below) Fisher is well known for her three previous books (The Sex Contract, Anatomy of Love and The First Sex), which bring an evolutionary perspective to myriad aspects of sex, love, and sex differences. This book is the best, in my view, because it goes beyond observable behaviors to consider their underlying brain mechanisms. Most people think of romantic love as a feeling. Fisher, however, views it as a drive so powerful that it can override other drives, such as hunger and thirst, render the most dignified person a fool, or bring rapture to an unassuming wallflower. This original hypothesis is consistent with the neurochemistry of love. While emphasizing the complex and subtle interplay among multiple brain chemicals, Fisher argues convincingly that dopamine deserves center stage. This neurotransmitter drives animals to seek rewards, such as food and sex, and is also essential to the pleasure experienced when such drives are satisfied. Fisher thinks that dopamine’s action can explain both the highs of romantic passion (dopamine rising) and the lows of rejection (dopamine falling). Citing evidence from studies of humans and other animals, she also demonstrates marked parallels between the behaviors, feelings and chemicals that underlie romantic love and those associated with substance addiction. Like the alcoholic who feels compelled to drink, the impassioned lover cries that he will die without his beloved. Dying of a broken heart is, of course, not adaptive, and neither is forsaking family and fortune to pursue a sweetheart to the ends of the earth. Why then, Fisher asks, has evolution burdened humans with such seemingly irrational passions? Drawing on evidence from living primates, paleontology and diverse cultures, she argues that the evolution of large-brained, helpless hominid infants created a new imperative for mother and father to cooperate in child-rearing. Romantic love, she contests, drove ancestral women and men to come together long enough to conceive, whereas attachment, another complex of feelings with a different chemical basis, kept them together long enough to support a child until weaning (about four years). Evidence indicates that as attachment grows, passion recedes. Thus, the same feelings that bring parents together often force them apart, as one or both fall in love with someone new. In this scenario, broken hearts and self-defeating crimes of passion become the unfortunate by-products of a biological system that usually facilitates reproduction. Fisher’s theory of how human pair-bonding evolved is just one of several hypotheses under debate today, and she does not discuss these alternatives. Similarly, some of her ideas about love’s chemistry are quite speculative (which she fully acknowledges). No one familiar with the evidence, however, can disagree that romantic love is a human universal that requires an evolutionary explanation, and Fisher, more than any other scientist, has brought this important point to public awareness. Like the words of a talented lover, Fisher’s prose is charming and engaging. Love poems, both modern and classic, enliven her narrative, along with poignant examples of romantic passion from other times and cultures. One chapter is a litany to passion in other animals, a vivid reminder that we are not the only species that feels deeply. Another provides new insight into the obsessive attempts of abandoned lovers to rekindle romance. Toward the end of the book, Fisher helps to redeem the self-help genre, rooting her advice in hard science. She shows how you might “trick the brain” to maintain enduring passion or recover more quickly from the pain of rejection: “Someone is camping in your brain,” she reminds us, and “you must throw the scoundrel out.” Engaging in activities known to increase dopamine might help; after all, love is not our only source of intense pleasure. In hands as skilled and sensitive as Fisher’s, scientific analysis of love only adds to its magic. If you forgot to give your beloved a gift on Valentine’s Day, it’s not too late to woo him or her anew with this book, which is likely to fascinate and delight anyone who has ever been in love.
Barbara Smuts is a professor in the psychology department at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She is author of Sex and Friendship in Baboons (reprinted with a new preface, Harvard University Press, 1999). –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
But the question that remained unanswered is why is there a chemical and genetic basis at all? For that matter, why should the genders of male and female even exist in the first place? Some will say that genders evolved so that species may survive. But that is wrong. See: How Darwinists confuse the Extravagant with the essential and Selection after something exists is not the same as selection before something exists.
But setting aside the question of evolution for the moment, let us see the architecture of romantic love as discovered by the love doctor herself, Helen Fisher.
From On Air:
The brain system I am studying is romantic love. I began by culling from the scientific literature those mental and physical traits that people regularly express when they are madly in love. I concluded Romantic love is a universal experience, deeply embedded in the human brain. Moreover, I developed my hypotheses about the brain chemistry of this passion…
Few people kill themselves when someone denies them sex; many have committed suicide after being rejected by a beloved.
animals feel primitive forms of romantic love. All mammals (and birds) have mating preferences. And as they court, they focus heir attention on specific individuals, follow them obsessively, express intense energy and pat, lick, stroke and caress in tender ways. All are caracteristics of romantic love…
‘animal attraction’ has been associated with dopamine in the brain — just like human romantic love. Attraction lasts only seconds in rats, about three days among elephants, and months in dogs; but animals do love….
Dr. Fisher fails to see that romantic love is costly from the standpoint of Darwinian selection. Genders should not have evolved in the first place, much less romance. Quoting Graham Bell from The masterpiece of Nature, the evolution of Genetics and Sexuality in Sex the queen problem for evolutionary biology
Sex is the queen of problems in evolutionary biology. Perhaps no other natural phenomenon has aroused so much interest; certainly none has sowed as much confusion. The insights of Darwin and Mendel, which have illuminated so many mysteries, have so far failed to shed more than a dim and wavering light on the central mystery of sexuality, emphasizing its obscurity by its very isolation.
It would seem the Intelligent Designer intended the existence of male and female to be the masterpiece of Nature. For all the love doctor’s knowledge about love and romance, she fails to notice one of the most important aspects about love and romance, it was the product of Intelligent Design.
1. photo credits idigitalcitizen
2. The topic seem appropriate for Valentine’s Day.
3. Dr. Fisher talks about her divorce here: Interview. The figure of six months I got elsewhere from a source I have since lost, but I recall the experience of broken love had some influence in her chosen specialty of romance.
4. Evolutionary psychologists often think, “human psychology evolved from animals, so we study animals to understand human psychology.” But from a perspective where Humans are the privileged species living on a privileged planet in a privileged time, then we might consider thinking the reverse –animal psychology is better explained by understanding human psychology. Here is a forgotten article posted 9 years ago at UD by Bill Dembski:
Legitimizing a Thoughtful Form of Anthropomophism.
5. From www.HelenFisher.com
Helen Fisher, PhD Biological Anthropologist, is a Research Professor and member of the Center for Human Evolution Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Internet dating site, Chemistry.com, a division of Match.com. She has conducted extensive research and written five books on the evolution and future of human sex, love, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how your personality type shapes who you are and who you love.